By: Meredith Erikson
I haven’t forgotten the first time I ever saw “Shattered Glass,” the movie about the infamous Stephen Glass. It was in the first journalism class I ever took in high school. Glass was, and still is the textbook example of what not to do in journalism. He was the ethical lesson every teacher taught us about. The social responsibility of a journalist is to deliver the truth. I wondered how any writer could ever think to get away with fabricating the truth after an incident like this.
I participated in my first tweet chat this week and the first question asked what our thoughts were about Juan Thompson, ex-reporter for “The Intercept” fabricating his stories and creating false quotes from people he had never even talked to. According to an article on “Gawker,” the editor-in-chief Betsy Reed claimed that he went to the extent of creating fake email addresses to further deceive his editors. Surely Thompson has seen “Shattered Glass!” Did he not learn anything from it? That moment was my first time hearing about the situation but I didn’t even believe it. I couldn’t fathom the idea of him thinking he could get away with it.
I couldn’t help but relate this situation to my crisis communications class and think about how the event should have been handled. In his statement, Thompson had the audacity to blame “The Intercept” for not providing him with an editor to guide him. If Thompson wanted to protect his own image, it wouldn’t be to blame the company he works for. He continued to change the initial unapologetic email he sent to Betsy Reed each time it was sent to a new reporter. His unclearness of his actions make him the example of what not to do in a crisis communication situation. On the other hand, “The Intercept” took responsibility for what happened. First of all, they fired Thompson. Second, Betsy Reed apologized for the mistakes by posting a statement on “The Intercept’s” website. Not only did she apologize to her readers but also to those who were falsely quoted. Her and her staff made sure to contact all other news outlets that had used his inaccurate stories and made sure they were aware of the problem. What I noted was that she said she will continue to publish further corrections if they find additional problems. It’s important to let your audience know you are taking follow-up measures, not just apologizing. According to “PR Daily,” Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology said “The Intercept” took the best possible course of action. “It demonstrates that they stand by journalistic principles and standards,” Holtz said.
I can almost guarantee we’ll be talking about this in class next week and how we would’ve handled it. Now if only we could have a movie day.
Reed, B. (2016, February 2). A Note to Readers. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from https://theintercept.com/2016/02/02/a-note-to-readers/
Trotter, J. (2016, February 2). Reporter Fabricated Quotes, Invented Sources at The Intercept. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://gawker.com/reporter-fabricated-quotes-invented-sources-at-the-int-1756672849
Working, R. (2016, February 4). Journalist out after tainted reporting. What’s the PR damage? Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/20102.aspx